Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SPORTS >> Jackson is new coach for Falcons

Leader sportswriter

The North Pulaski High School athletic department and principal Jeff Senn have recommended Jacksonville High School assistant Roy Jackson to succeed basketball coach Raymond Cooper.

Jackson, a 1992 graduate of Jacksonville High School, won out over nine other applicants for the job and will take over pending approval from the school board.

“It’s always been a lifelong dream of mine to coach a high school basketball program,” said Jackson, who applied after Cooper left to become basketball coach at Mills. “When coach Cooper left, it was a perfect opportunity for me to come in. I know a lot of the kids from playing against them, and I know the ins and outs of that rivalry.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to prove myself.”

Jackson received his teaching degree at the University of Central Arkansas and began his coaching career as an assistant at Lake Charles (La.) Boston High School, where he was part of a state championship program in 2004.

Jackson returned in 2005 to take a position on the Jacksonville athletic staff.

He began coaching the boys freshmen team and served as assistant under coach Victor Joyner, who came from North Pulaski to take over the Red Devils program the same year and was replaced at North Pulaski by Cooper.

“We knew about his discipline and work ethic,” North Pulaski athletic director Tony Bohannon said of Jackson. “He’s knowledgeable of the game. We’ve watched him coaching the ninth-grade teams and seen him with the senior-high teams and we know he’ll do a good job and pick up the slack.

“It will be different, but he’ll be a good fit here.”

The basketball ties between the cross-town schools are strong. Players from both programs are teammates in summer AAU basketball, not to mention Joyner’s previous experience at North Pulaski.

“He endorsed me,” Jackson said of Joyner, his mentor over the past six seasons. “He told me it would be a great idea, and that was where he got his start. It’s a good program, and I’m a home-grown boy, so it’s just a great opportunity.”

Girls varsity basketball coach Katrina Mimms moved from North Pulaski to Jacksonville in 2006, and North Pulaski football coach Terrod Hatcher, who recently stepped down, played at Jacksonville.

Cooper, who will remain in the Pulaski County Special School District at Mills, led North Pulaski to a state runner-up finish in the 5A tournament in 2009 and took the Falcons to the semifinals the following year.

“I know coach Cooper and coach Joyner left some big shoes to fill,” Jackson said. “But I’m ready to strap on those boots and ready to get to work.”

Jackson was already meeting with his new players when contacted by a reporter early Monday afternoon.

Though in different classifications and conferences, North Pulaski and Jacksonville schedule two games a year. They often meet in the annual Wampus Cat Classic invitational tournament in Conway in early December and in the annual Red Devil Classic at Jacksonville during the holiday break.

In December, the Red Devils, on their way to this year’s 6A state final after winning the championship in 2009, held off a late charge by the Falcons to claim the Red Devil Classic championship.

Jackson and Joyner won a state title at Jacksonville together in 2009 and were 6A state runners-up to Little Rock Parkview in March.

Even though he will compete against his former head coach and is taking over Joyner’s former program, Jackson said he is ready to begin his own era.

“It’s going to be a little different, but I’m up to the challenge,” Jackson said. “After that many years in Jacksonville, and coming from that school.

“It’s going to be real exiting; it’s going to be the kid going up against his mentor.”